Musakhan Rolls are a play on the classic Palestinian recipe called Musakhan. They're made with shredded chicken, caramelized onions, olive oil, and lots and lots of sumac. The magic behind this dish is the sweetness of the slowly caramelized onions, coupled with the tanginess of the sumac. You can also substitute ready made rotisserie chicken to make this dish even easier. Let's walk through the process.
What is Palestinian Musakhan?
Musakhan is an authentic Palestinian dish consisting of onions slowly caramelized in olive oil and sumac, spread on traditional Palestinian taboon bread, and topped with roasted bone-in chicken pieces. It's Palestine's iconic dish, and for good reason! Topped with crunchy pine nuts or almonds and served with a side of yogurt, this dish is a total treat.
Musakhan is typically served as a layered dish, and everyone just sort of digs into the chicken and bread by hand. These musakhan rolls are an attempt to make the classic dish into a finger food, suitable for serving at dinner parties or as a simple lunch.
There are four key things you need in order to replicate authentic Musakhan:
- Sumac. This is a must, and the classic flavours of the dish hinges on it! I suggest going to your local middle eastern shop and grabbing a fresh bag of sumac. Sumac is a common middle eastern spice that's fruity and tangy - learn more about it here.
- High quality extra virgin olive oil. This is also very important!
- Onions - lots of onions, slowly caramelized to release their sweet flavour.
- Taboon bread if serving traditional layered musakhan, or markouk bread for this musakhan rolls recipe. But if you can't get your hands on markouk, there are a few substitutions you can use.
For these rolls, you can either use store bough rotisserie chicken, or you can boil the chicken from scratch. I often boil the chicken then use the broth to make a soup on the side. Another tip is that you can make the filling a day or two in advance, so you only have to assemble the rolls and bake for a few minutes before serving.
Types of Bread Used for Musakhan
Traditional layered musakhan uses taboon bread, which is a thicker bread, like lavash. This is so that it can withstand all the moisture from the onions. However, for musakhan rolls, the best type of bread to use is thin bread so the result is a crispy roll.
I recommend using markouk bread pictured below. You can find this at a local middle eastern store. It's also used for excellent chicken shawarma wraps! However, they are sometimes hard to find!
If you can't find it, here are some other options:
- Thin mexican toritllas. These will also crisp up nicely in the oven!
- Thin Lebanese pita bread. You can split the pita bread in half to get an even thinner layer for the rolls.
Ingredients You Will need for Musakhan
For the chicken broth, you will need:
- Whole bone-in chicken legs, or a whole chicken.
- Yellow onions, cut in half.
- Whole spices including a cinnamon stick, bay leaves, whole allspice, and whole green cardamom.
TIP: Remember that you can also use ready-made shredded rotisserie chicken for these Musakhan rolls!
For the onions and chicken mixture, you will need:
- Sliced red onions. These should be sliced as evenly as possible. You can slice by hand or use a mandolin or the slicer attachment to your food processor.
- Olive oil - lots of it!
- Sumac - the main ingredient.
- Other spices like allspice, cinnamon and salt.
Finally, you will also need the classic bread used to make the rolls, Markouk bread.
How to make Musakhan Rolls - Step by Step
To make the chicken from scratch, start by searing the chicken legs in a bit of oil. Then, add water to cover and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Then add the onions and all the whole spices.
Boil for 60-90 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Shred the chicken and set aside. Save the broth for a delicious soup on the side.
Next, work on the onions. In a large skillet, place the olive oil and the sliced onions. The onions don't need to be too thin, but aim to slice them into even sizes.
TIP: Use a slicer attachment on your food processor to slice the onions quicker. Or use a mandolin (very carefully!).
Cook the onions with the olive oil and salt for 20-30 minutes on medium heat until softened and lightly golden. Add the shredded chicken and all the spices and mix well.
Next, toast the almonds in a separate skillet until golden, then add them to the chicken and onion mixture.
Get your markouk bread ready by cutting them into even rectangular pieces. They can be small or medium in size - this is up to you. Place a few tablespoons of the filling in the middle, then roll, ensuring you secure the ends by folding them over.
TIP: Be sure to use at least a 1.5 to 2 tablespoons of the filling to ensure you have a good ratio of filling to bread!
Place the musakhan rolls tightly side by side in a 9x13 inch casserole dish which has been brushed with olive oil.
Bake them at 400F for 25 minutes, then broil the top for a few minutes until the rolls are crispy and golden. Sprinkle with more sumac, finely chopped parsley, and almonds.
How to Serve Musakhan
My favourite way to serve these musakhan rolls is as an appetizer for dinner parties, sort of like "spring rolls". But I also make them for dinner and serve them with a side of soup, like my delicious lentil soup or cauliflower soup.
They are also delicious with a side of plain yogurt for dipping!
How to Store and Re-Heat Musakhan Rolls
Serve the Musakhan right away when it is hot. However, if you have some leftovers, place them in an air tight container and in the fridge for 2-3 days.
To re-heat them, I find the best way is to pop them into an air fryer and heat them through for 5-7 minutes and they will crisp up to good as new. You can also heat them up in the oven if you don't have an air fryer.
Musakhan rolls are also great for freezing. Simply freeze them after you roll them and before you bake them. Then, bake them from frozen and increase the baking time as needed.
Sometimes, when I don't have any markouk bread and when I have leftover rotisserie chicken, I'll make Musakhan "sandwiches". I just use any bread I have on hand, which is usually pita bread, and roll them into large sandwiches.
I then bake them for a few minutes and broil until crispy, then serve them up. So good!
More Chicken Recipes You Will Love
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For the chicken
- 3 full chicken legs skin on and bone in
- 2 yellow onions
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 cardamom pods
- 6 whole allspice berries
For the rolls
- 4 large Markouk bread substitute with Lebanese pita or tortillas
- 6 red onions
- 1 cup olive oil extra virgin
- 4 tablespoons sumac plus more for garnish
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup slivered almonds
To Make the Chicken:
- Start by making a chicken broth by placing the chickens, onions and spices in a pot and covering with water
- Bring to a boil while skimming off the residue as needed and topping up the water
- Simmer for a minimum of 45 minutes or up to 2-3 hours
- Separate the chicken from the broth, shred and set aside. Leftover chicken can also be used for this recipe! In that case, skip to the instructions for making the rolls
To Make the Musakhan Rolls:
- Preheat the oven to 400F
- Slice the onions, they do not have to be too thin and a food processor with a slicing attachment can be used here
- In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil, the onions and 1 tsp of the salt
- Cook them over medium/low heat for around 20-30 minutes, stirring every few minutes until they are softened and lightly golden
- Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a skillet over low heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil while stirring until they are lightly toasted, set aside
- Once the onions are softened and lightly golden, add the shredded chicken along with the spices and the other teaspoon of salt
- Continue stirring and cook for a further 5-7 minutes, remove from heat and mix in the almonds
- Cut the markouk bread into long strips and place about 1-2 tablespoons of filling before rolling it up. You can secure the edges by folding them in, but it's not necessary
- Place completed rolls in an oiled 9x13 inch casserole dish
- Bake at 400F for 25 minutes, then broil for 5 mins until golden and crispy. Serve with yogurt
- You can use leftover shredded rotisserie chicken for this recipe, instead of making the chicken from scratch.
- If you can't find markouk bread, you can use toritllas or thin Lebanese pita bread.